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 Can Critical Thinkers become critical too soon?
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bngbuck
SFN Addict

USA
2437 Posts

Posted - 12/30/2007 :  16:21:17  Show Profile Send bngbuck a Private Message  Reply with Quote
From the Sunday Times:


Bright Ideas
Innovative Minds Don't Think Alike



"IT'S a pickle of a paradox: As our knowledge and expertise increase, our creativity and ability to innovate tend to taper off. Why? Because the walls of the proverbial box in which we think are thickening along with our experience.

Andrew S. Grove, the co-founder of Intel, put it well in 2005 when he told an interviewer from Fortune, “When everybody knows that something is so, it means that nobody knows nothin'.” In other words, it becomes nearly impossible to look beyond what you know and think outside the box you've built around yourself."



Very interesting article. It suggests a lot about what I have been writing about regarding perception for some time now. Makes one contemplate if we, who to varying degrees consider ourselves 'critical thinkers', might benefit from thinking critically about the mental box that sometimes the CR mindset creates.

I know this is apostasy and I fully expect outrage from some quarters here, but is it barely possible that 'critical thinking' as, for example, defined in wiki could occasionally be crippled thinking?

For example, in my original thread on these forums, I asked for analysis or commentary on certain specifically defined instances of UAP phenomena. I erred in assuming that a community of thinkers and questioners would already be familiar with the fact that there truly were a few instances of UFO or UAP sightings that had been thoroughly vetted and remained unexplained. Actually, very few folks on the forum were aware of this. Surprising!

So naturally I was beseiged by requests and demands for evidence! Mostly because I am essentially a contrarian, I initially refused and this led to all kinds of interesting but useless-to-the-subject back and forth about the nature of scientific enquiry; which virtually everyone, including myself, already knew very well. Little was learned by anyone about the topic, but a great deal was revealed about the process of critical thinking - in this instance, the urge to get out the toolbox before the car breaks down. I know, I know - how could I expect anything else, etc.! There is definitely some truth there, and I fully admit error in an initial assumption.

If my mistaken assumption (that some vetted ufo sightings really existed was common knowledge in the skeptical community), had been true; I am sure that many more people here would have spoken directly to my question of opinion as to how could this be?, rather than to the challenge of prove that this is!

I am not saying that the precepts of criticality failed here, just that they were applied too early. And I should have realized after the first response or two that very few knew what I was talking about; and I should re-explain or comply with the requests. Other buttons had been pushed by then and something like twenty-five pages ensued before the group and I began to know each other!

I use this example because it has caused me to rethink my perception of skepticality, and critical thinking, and the applications of the scientific method. This has become an ongoing process in my thinking as I have engaged in, and also observed, many more debates here. And I feel it is a very good thing!

From time to time, I have felt a little like this:

I am sure the sound of the foxhorn is familiar to Jerome, BillScott, BHG88, and a few others who have dared trespass on these dangerous grounds!




recurve boy
Skeptic Friend

Australia
53 Posts

Posted - 12/30/2007 :  18:18:21   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send recurve boy a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by bngbuck

I know this is apostasy and I fully expect outrage from some quarters here, but is it barely possible that 'critical thinking' as, for example, defined in wiki could occasionally be crippled thinking?

For example, in my original thread on these forums, I asked for analysis or commentary on certain specifically defined instances of UAP phenomena. I erred in assuming that a community of thinkers and questioners would already be familiar with the fact that there truly were a few instances of UFO or UAP sightings that had been thoroughly vetted and remained unexplained. Actually, very few folks on the forum were aware of this. Surprising!


There is surely a danger of habitual reactions. I have been worried I might be dismissing things out of hand as well. But I notice that many topics brought up by "believers" (for lack of an all encompassing term), tend to fall within a well studied set of topics, creationism/evolution, global warming etc ... and nothing new is brought to the table to really challenge the status quo. Just more unwarranted speculation or the old stuff brought up again. I have not read any of the thread you talk about though. Link?

So yeah, maybe if there was something new to think about?
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bngbuck
SFN Addict

USA
2437 Posts

Posted - 12/30/2007 :  20:04:38   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send bngbuck a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Recurve.....

Certainly. Two threads, here! and here!

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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26001 Posts

Posted - 12/30/2007 :  21:01:18   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by bngbuck

I am not saying that the precepts of criticality failed here, just that they were applied too early.
I don't see how. People wanted to know what you were talking about. How could any dicussion (either polite or heated) of "a few instances of UFO or UAP sightings that had been thoroughly vetted and remained unexplained" begin when only you had the requisite knowledge? (As you know, the discussion that ensued wasn't about that.)

Take your quote to heart:
When everybody knows that something is so, it means that nobody knows nothin'.
You assumed that everybody knew that something was so. It was the assumption that was wrong, not everyone thinking "inside the box."

Besides which, I forget who said it, but a much more applicable quote is this:
To think outside the box, you first have to know what's inside the box.

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
Evidently, I rock!
Why not question something for a change?
Visit Dave's Psoriasis Info, too.
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Dude
SFN Die Hard

USA
6891 Posts

Posted - 12/31/2007 :  00:03:41   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Dude a Private Message  Reply with Quote
bng said:
I know this is apostasy and I fully expect outrage from some quarters here, but is it barely possible that 'critical thinking' as, for example, defined in wiki could occasionally be crippled thinking?

No.

Why, you ask?

Because when you apply the skill properly it is a self correcting process.

The problem arises when people use the skill improperly or without awareness of bias. You can easily cripple your ability to critically examine a subject in some cases. There are an amazing number of people out there who have no basic comprehension of this skill set. Even many who have it in good measure will consistently fail in some specific area because of bias they refuse to shed.

In your first posting here, for example, it seemed to me that you were implying these "vetted, yet unexplained" UFOs were in fact little green men come to visit. In fact, I still am not 100% sure of your position on that specific matter. I do know that there are many who do, in fact, twist the "unexplained" part of that into "explained by aliens". That is a fine example of critical thinking crippled by bias. In the absence of further evidence all you have is an unexplained event, if you are using the skills properly.

And I should have realized after the first response or two that very few knew what I was talking about; and I should re-explain or comply with the requests.

Yeah, that would have been the reasonable thing to do.

The requests for evidence were obviously misinterpreted by you. When I asked for evidence what I wanted was some link or reference to the data on these "vetted, yet unexplained" events. I wanted to see who was doing the vetting, what exactly was observed, why it was relevant, and so on... without that data its impossible to start any critical evaluation.

So if the process ended to soon, who is to blame in that instance?


Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.
-- Thomas Jefferson

"god :: the last refuge of a man with no answers and no argument." - G. Carlin

Hope, n.
The handmaiden of desperation; the opiate of despair; the illegible signpost on the road to perdition. ~~ da filth
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Dude
SFN Die Hard

USA
6891 Posts

Posted - 12/31/2007 :  04:24:35   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Dude a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Oh, and thank you for that picture, that is hilarious. Probably photoshopped up, but I actually laughed out loud. Fox hunt indeed.


Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.
-- Thomas Jefferson

"god :: the last refuge of a man with no answers and no argument." - G. Carlin

Hope, n.
The handmaiden of desperation; the opiate of despair; the illegible signpost on the road to perdition. ~~ da filth
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26001 Posts

Posted - 12/31/2007 :  07:50:52   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Yeah, is there a version of that without the yellow arrow?

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
Evidently, I rock!
Why not question something for a change?
Visit Dave's Psoriasis Info, too.
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bngbuck
SFN Addict

USA
2437 Posts

Posted - 12/31/2007 :  13:31:49   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send bngbuck a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Dave.....

Your wish is my command. A little dab of Paint, and voila, no yellow arrow! You're welcome!


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recurve boy
Skeptic Friend

Australia
53 Posts

Posted - 12/31/2007 :  15:10:00   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send recurve boy a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by bngbuck

Recurve.....

Certainly. Two threads, here! and here!



Well, I only read the first couple pages of the first thread.

So naturally I was beseiged by requests and demands for evidence! Mostly because I am essentially a contrarian, I initially refused and this led to all kinds of interesting but useless-to-the-subject back and forth about the nature of scientific enquiry; which virtually everyone, including myself, already knew very well.


So this really wasn't helpful. Immediately seeking evidence isn't really a sign of a lack of thinking. It's more like a standard operation we perform that we know will get us certain information that we need.


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bngbuck
SFN Addict

USA
2437 Posts

Posted - 12/31/2007 :  15:10:11   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send bngbuck a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Dave.....

I don't see how. People wanted to know what you were talking about. How could any dicussion (either polite or heated) of "a few instances of UFO or UAP sightings that had been thoroughly vetted and remained unexplained" begin when only you had the requisite knowledge? (As you know, the discussion that ensued wasn't about that.)
I think both the goose and the gander were equally sauced here. I assumed that well-informed skeptics who deal with matters like UFO's regularly - (I did know that at least the professional ones like Shermer and Randi do) - would be fully aware of the fact that a number of sightings had been carefully investigated and still remained unexplained.

Many who demanded "evidence" were assuming that I was taking a position of advocacy for the existence of an extraterrestrial origin for UFOs/UAP.

Neither position was supported by any evidence. My thinking was still in the box of the 50's, 60's and 70's, when all skeptics were knowledgable of UFOs. Not very Critical! Many of those asking for evidence of little green men did not understand my question because of a cognitive bias against the possibility of little green men, not because of such bias against the possibility of the existence of unexplained objects in the sky. Not very Critical, either.
To think outside the box, you first have to know what's inside the box.
In the classic nine-dot-puzzle from which the "think outside the box" mantra originated.....



.....it is obvious what is inside the box, nine dots! What is not obvious is that the box is a not a boundary to the action required. Simply knowing that there is a box and there are nine dots inside of it is not sufficient or useful to solving the puzzle.

If the aphorism you quote means you have to understand that there is a box and something is in it before you can solve the puzzle, that is both a truism and self-defeating. Better one not even perceive a box, in order to imagine a solution!

Perhaps it would be better to say: "In order to overcome preconceived bias preventing solution to a problem; it is necessary to understand both the limitations, and the lack of limitations necessary for its solution"

To quote a famous thinker,
Wow, massive over-analysis

Too much of a good thing is wonderful!
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Dude
SFN Die Hard

USA
6891 Posts

Posted - 12/31/2007 :  15:40:44   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Dude a Private Message  Reply with Quote
bng said:
Many of those asking for evidence of little green men did not understand my question because of a cognitive bias against the possibility of little green men, not because of such bias against the possibility of the existence of unexplained objects in the sky.

Actually you misunderstood the request for evidence. In at least one instance the request for evidence was asking you for a reference to these allegedly well know "vetted, but unexplained" instances.

As in, evidence that such instances actually exist.

To bad you decided to show your "clever" side instead of simply providing the requested material. Would have made that thread a potentially interesting topic instead of the stupid-fest it devolved into.


Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.
-- Thomas Jefferson

"god :: the last refuge of a man with no answers and no argument." - G. Carlin

Hope, n.
The handmaiden of desperation; the opiate of despair; the illegible signpost on the road to perdition. ~~ da filth
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bngbuck
SFN Addict

USA
2437 Posts

Posted - 12/31/2007 :  16:25:13   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send bngbuck a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Dude.....

In your first posting here, for example, it seemed to me that you were implying these "vetted, yet unexplained" UFOs were in fact little green men come to visit. In fact, I still am not 100% sure of your position on that specific matter. I do know that there are many who do, in fact, twist the "unexplained" part of that into "explained by aliens". That is a fine example of critical thinking crippled by bias. In the absence of further evidence all you have is an unexplained event, if you are using the skills properly.
First, I have to state this. I think the statistical chances of UFO/UAP events being explained by extraterrestrial visitation are much lower than the chances that there actually are other extraterrestrial intelligent beings in the universe. Sagans's view on the latter seems eminently sensible to me - "billions and billions....etc." However, I cannot reduce the ETA hypothesis to next to impossible because of several factors:

1. There are 64 known stars within five parsecs (16.08 light years) of our solar system. This is not an impossible distance for an object created by extremely high technology to transverse.

2. Implications of recent brane theory suggest the possibility of intra-dimensional space travel, negating the thousands or millions of light-years necessary to reach other galaxies - the folded paper analogy.

3. The very remote possibility exists that technologically protected intelligent life could exist on solid planets or moons of gaseous planets within our solar system.

4. An equally remote but still possible scenario is an artificial planet (something like George Lucas's Death Star), too small and remote to appear in our telescopes, but much closer than the closest planetary system to Earth as a habitable base for intelligent life.

There are, as any SF fan (many out there, I surmise) knows; dozens of other very unlikely theoretical possibilities, time travel, multiple universes, and so forth. Most all of the above is fairly wild speculation, but in very extensive reading on the subject over many years, I have yet to see arguments that are persuasive as to the impossibility of extraterrestrial visitation. I will remain agnostic on the subject until something that really looks like proof convinces me otherwise! I certainly am not naive enough to be a "True Believer", common sense as well as scientific examination of the problem prevents that. But I think it is inexcusably arrogant for man, at this early stage of the development of astrophysics, to deem extraterrestrial visitation "impossible".
I do know that there are many who do, in fact, twist the "unexplained" part of that into "explained by aliens". That is a fine example of critical thinking crippled by bias.
Exactly the point I was making to Dave in my post above!
So if the process ended to soon, who is to blame in that instance?
Certainly myself, for initially failing to realize that a bunch of bright skeptics didn't know as much about the UAP subject as I did. And then getting pissed off when confronted by unreasonable demands to prove that the sightings were indeed aliens of some sort, ignoring those who were merely saying, "I don't know of seriously investigated UAP reports, tell me of some" and then going on to purposely aggravate as many as possible because of the fun of seeing some spin out of control. Sheer manipulative bullshit! Trollism, if you like. But I didn't know you folks any better than you knew me, at that point in time!

Also to blame were those who would or could not realize I was asking a serious question, because their cognitive bias (as you point out above) caused them to know that I was a believer and they really wanted to be one of the hounds in the fox hunt! Sheer crowd psychology!

Zero sum game, except we both learned a lot about the other!

Edited to correct parsec to light year ratio
Edited by - bngbuck on 12/31/2007 18:49:36
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Cuneiformist
The Imperfectionist

USA
4954 Posts

Posted - 12/31/2007 :  16:52:47   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Cuneiformist a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by bngbuck
For example, in my original thread on these forums, I asked for analysis or commentary on certain specifically defined instances of UAP phenomena. I erred in assuming that a community of thinkers and questioners would already be familiar with the fact that there truly were a few instances of UFO or UAP sightings that had been thoroughly vetted and remained unexplained. Actually, very few folks on the forum were aware of this. Surprising!
No to re-hash old threads, but I don't think this is a fair characterization of how that went down. In the thread, you did indeed ask about "on certain specifically defined instances of UAP phenomena." However, for my part, I felt uncomfortable answering a question about "specifically defined instances of UAP" without a bit more defined specificity. So I asked for examples. I was certainly aware of some UAP, but who's to say that what I had in mind would meet your definition of "specifically defined instances"? The whole thread was rather distressing, but I don't think it was a result of certain people being too critical too soon!
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26001 Posts

Posted - 12/31/2007 :  17:44:42   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by bngbuck

...five parsecs (82 light years)...
A parsec is 3.258 light years, so perhaps you meant twenty-five parsecs.

More later... I had a spare five minutes in which to be pedantic.

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
Evidently, I rock!
Why not question something for a change?
Visit Dave's Psoriasis Info, too.
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bngbuck
SFN Addict

USA
2437 Posts

Posted - 12/31/2007 :  18:26:33   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send bngbuck a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Dude.....

To bad you decided to show your "clever" side instead of simply providing the requested material. Would have made that thread a potentially interesting topic instead of the stupid-fest it devolved into.


I am far too knowledgable of the nature of SFN and it's contributing members to make that mistake again, but remember, I had no idea what country I was in at that time.

I don't agree it was a stupid-fest, however. To my knowledge, by the end of the second thread, about all that anyone had to contribute to the subject had been said. Far too much space was wasted to acrimony, but that seems to be the nature of the beast here sometimes. I do think the efforts of Dave, Kil, Mabuse, and a few others following all the shit-slinging of those threads, have greatly improved the general quality of the discourse. I haven't seen colorful personal descriptions like "butt-sniff", "dickhead", "liar", "shitty" and the like bandied about here recently, and that is a good thing in itself. Those two threads were kind of a catalyst that precipitated action that needed to be taken.

But I don't think you , or possibly anyone else here, understands the true wealth of information I received from those twenty eight pages of attack and redirect. Going in, I knew nothing of the nature of the fifteen or twenty real players in the club, and nothing of the club itself. I came away with rough profiles of most of the real contributors, the rules of the game, and a notion of how to profit intellectually from SFN - all that in two long threads!

Yourself, Marf, Humbert, Mooner, Kil and Dave have contributed many ideas and viewpoints that I have built paragraphs and occasionally pages on. Testing various concepts against the wide spectrum of opinion and occasional expertise on the forums, has been invaluable. Filthy's essays have given me insights into perception in worlds of which I was barely aware! And many others, also, have contributed to my stock pot of opinion. It is a rich vein of data for an opinion miner, and I am grateful for it. My book will encompass considerably more than the perception of UAP, as I am writing on the broad philosophical and psychological implications of the process of perception.

Besides, it's a hell of a lot of fun, whether needling, nattering or noodling! I truly have a ball with you folks!
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bngbuck
SFN Addict

USA
2437 Posts

Posted - 12/31/2007 :  18:45:29   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send bngbuck a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Dave.....

Thank you for your correction. You, unfortunately, are entirely correct! No, I meant sixteen light years (16.308)to be exact. Foolish mistake, but fortunately the only one I've made this year. I'm going to try harder in 2008!
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